How Bizarre, How Bizarre!
View From the Press Box
July 13, 1997
TAMPA, Fla. - Only a few weeks ago, everyone was
wondering what exactly was going on in Tampa Bay. After winning two games
in a row, it seems that the Tampa Bay Storm (6-5) are turning things around.
But people are still wondering what is going on.
Don't let the score fool you. Although it seems typical of a normal Arena
Football game, The Storm's 68-43 win over the Anaheim Piranhas (2-9) was
the most bizarre sporting event that I have ever attended. Since it was
so unusual, I'll just go through everything in order.
- The Storm score a safety only 1:53 into the game when Piranhas QB
John Kaleo fumbled the ball on third down and OL/DL Chuck Reed recovered
it in the endzone. He stepped out of bounds, giving the Storm
their first ever 2-0 lead. How bizarre!
- After a Tracey Perkins
interception gave the Storm the ball on their own five-yard-line, Storm
QB Peter Tom Willis was sacked in
the endzone by Anaheim OL/DL Sam Hernandez for a safety. This gave the
Piranhas their first score of the game as they pulled within seven points,
a 9-2 defecit. I believe that this is the first time in AFL
history that both teams first scores in a game were safeties.
- When Tampa Bay gets the ball with 6:08 remaining in the first half
and the ball on their own 15-yard-line, Storm WR/DB Wayne Walker, who
joined the team last week, ran a deep pattern down the right sideline.
Willis' pass was underthrown by six yards, but somehow, Walker was able
to turn around and come back to the ball at the eight-yard-line. In the
process, the Piranhas defensive back fell down. After Walker caught the
ball, he ran to the center of the field, trying to get into the endzone.
But Walker fell down (possibly tripping on a seam in the
carpet), rolled back on to his feet and was tackled by the same defender
one yard short of the endzone. It was the funniest pass play I have ever
seen. How bizarre!
- The Storm received the ball with 0:18 remaining in the second quarter.
Stevie Thomas went onto the field
and then went back to the sideline. He was called for an illegal
substitution. This may have been the best thing to happen to the Storm
all game. When Walker subbed for Stevie Thomas, the Storm lost the lead.
Go figure, Walker had never played defense. The penalty forced Thomas to
come back into the game. On fourth down with six seconds left, Thomas
streaked down the right sideline, like Walker had done earlier. This
time, the Willis pass was on the money and Thomas made the grab for a TD.
In any other game this season, he probably would have dropped the
pass. Tonight, he looked like the old Stevie Thomas. This year,
- After giving up a 57-yard kickoff return to the Piranhas late in the
second half to Rodney Mazion, the league's premier kick-returner, the
Storm needed to tighten up on return coverage. They certainly did. On four
consecutive kickoffs during the third and fourth quarters, Storm kicker
Rich Fall put every kickoff between
the two nets. Three were above the cross bar and the fourth went
just below it, never giving Mazion a chance to return a kick. In
a game where good returns are the norm, the Storm managed to prevent the
Piranhas from returning the ball. How bizarre!
- As an indirect result of the four consecutive non-returns, the
Storm outscored the Piranhas 20-7 during that stretch.
- When Anaheim kicker Ian Howfield attempted a 53-yard
fieldgoal, only two things happened. First, the long-snapper sent the ball
to the holder, who placed it on the kicking block. Then, Storm OL/DL
Willie Wyatt ran through
the line untouched and scooped up the ball. He was tackled at
the two-yard-line. The holder never saw him coming, and the kicker never
began his kicking motion. Needless to say, the Storm scored three plays
later. That's 6-0. How bizarre!
- On the next Anaheim drive, Piranhas FB/LB Tim Brown lost
control of the ball on a sweep to the right, which the Storm
recovered on the eight-yard-line. The Storm scored on the next play, an
eight-yard run by Andre Bowden. That's 13-0. How Bizarre!
- On the next Anaheim drive, Storm DS
intercepted a Kaleo pass on second down, returning it to
the one-yard-line. It was his second for the game and ninth on the year.
Bowden scored again on the next play. That's 20-0. How bizarre!
- The fourth try actually worked for the Piranhas, who went 45 yards in
seven plays and managed to score a touchdown. That makes
the score 20-7 as a result of the four consecutive touchbacks. This was
the only time they scored during the fourth quarter. How bizarre!
- The Storm's worst quarter this season has been the third. Going into
the game, they have been outscored 71-48 in the period. Tonight, in rare
fashion, the Storm out-scored Anaheim 19-7, bringing the
third-quarter scoring margin from minus-23 to minus-11. How bizarre!
- Another thing the Storm improved on was turnovers. Going into the
game, they were minus-nine. After stealing three interceptions and two
fumbles, while only giving away one of each, the Storm actually
improved the turnover ratio to minus-six. The Storm
out-scored the Piranhas 20-10. How bizarre!
- With just over one minute remaining in the game, the Storm line up to
attempt a field goal---but it's a fake. Fall kicks it very short
deliberately, hoping that OS George
LaFrance can get to the ball before any Anaheim receivers do. The
Storm tried this in practice on Wednesday. It doesn't work. It's a good
thing they tried it while a game was not on the line.
The Piranhas don't see this as fortunate though---they see the Storm
trying to run up the score. As a result of their frustration a fight
breaks out. Storm OL/DL Terry
Beauford and Piranhas WR/DB Mazion are ejected. How bizarre!
- The referees. Three-yard penalties being marched off as
two-and-a-half. Some they forget to march off. Inconsistent
calls. Anyone who has been to an AFL game this season knows how
unusually sloppy the refs have been. How bizarre!
- I can't remember the last time the Storm scored five TDs on the
ground. Four of them were run in by Bowden, who tied a team
record for rushing TDs and set a career best in the same
category. With Thomas and Bowden looking like their old excellent
selves, maybe the Storm is back. How bazarre!
- 68 points was one shy of a team record. In fact, it's the first time
the Storm broke the fifty point mark all season. The last
time they scored over fifty was against Arizona in a 55-54 playoff win
last year and the first time over 60 since last year's regular seaon
69-48 win, also against the Rattlers. The Storm had gone 12 games without
breaking the half-century mark, a rarity in the AFL. In fact, this
boosted the points-per-game up by 3.1 points to 36.7. How bizarre!
After reading through this long list of unusual events that occured
during the game, you can see how uncharacteristic this game was for the
Storm and the AFL in general. I have been to plenty of games during the
Storm's seven years of existance. Before tonight, I thought I could say
that I had seen all of the strangeness that makes Arena Football what it
is. I was wrong, but after the Storm's unusually entertaining win over
the Piranhas, I think that I can truly say that I have seen it all.
That's my view from the press box.